November 16, 2006In an unexpected move, a judge granted a request Thursday from David Safavian, the former head of the Office of Management and Budget's procurement policy shop, for a stay of his prison sentence, pending an appeal of his June conviction of obstructing justice and making false statements.
Safavian filed an appeal in September challenging his conviction on four counts of making false statements to General Services Administration employees and obstructing an investigation by GSA's inspector general. The charges stem from Safavian's relationship with lobbyist Jack Abramoff while serving as chief of staff at GSA, and focused on a Scotland golf trip the men took together, along with other officials, in 2002. Appeals can take several years, so Safavian's sentence of 18 months -- if upheld -- will not begin until after that ruling.
In his opinion granting the request, U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman cited the section of U.S. Code that says that if a person is not likely to flee, and the appeal raises a substantial question of law likely to result in a reversal, new trial or different sentence, then the judge can grant a request for release on bond.
Safavian's lawyer, Barbara "Biz" Van Gelder, raised numerous legal issues before, during and after the trial, including questions about the admission of controversial e-mails between Safavian and Abramoff as evidence.
Friedman noted in his opinion that if one or more of the legal questions raised are decided in Safavian's favor, then a new trial is likely.
Justice Department prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg declined to comment. In a filing, prosecutors agreed that Safavian was not at risk of fleeing.
November 16, 2006